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The White Sands of New Mexico

By Linda Tancs

Rising from the heart of New Mexico’s Tularosa Basin 14 miles west of Alamogordo is a sea of glistening white sands dating to the end of the last Ice Age, a prized gypsum dunefield known as White Sands National Monument. Although many dunefields exist around the world, most comprise typical brown quartz and other minerals. Only a handful of gypsum dunefields exist, White Sands being the world’s largest at 275 square miles. Even some of the animals living there are as white as their surroundings. In fact, three species of lizards, one pocket mouse and numerous species of insects have evolved a white coloration for survival in the white sands. Like every animal in the white sands, they make tracks on the varied dunes (four different types) during their nocturnal movements. Even the dunes themselves move as much as 30 feet per year. Park hours vary by season due to missile testing at the nearby range or inclement weather.

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